Traits of a Professional Translator

5 Traits to Look For in a Professional Translator

In Blog by Rafael Morel

The qualities of your professional translator can make or break your business.

Finding the right professional translator for your business can be a challenge. People often think that everyone who speaks two languages is qualified to be a translator. Until they experience the embarrassment of mistakes in their marketing materials or the discomfort of a failed deal.

A professional translator has a far bigger responsibility than most businesses would like to admit. Hiring a translator is a risky business – a bad translator might ruin your reputation and close many doors for you. Most importantly, he/she will make you look unprofessional, and who can afford that today?

If you want to find out the 5 Traits of A Professional Translator that are going to help you distinguish a good translator from the pack quickly and with confidence, read on.


It’s needless to say that a business needs a certified and experienced translator. You can’t rely on someone without the right training. Simply being able to speak the language doesn’t qualify for professionalism.

To make sure that you’re really working with a professional, you can either look for certification or ask for referrals. Another sign of professionalism is setting clear deadlines (and keeping them) and making sure that everyone has the same expectations.

A professional translator isn’t afraid to say “no”, doesn’t make excuses, takes responsibility and only makes commitments he/she can keep.


Attentiveness is a trait that is acquired – translators train to listen and be 100% present at the conversation that is taking place.

In the overwhelming supply of translation services, a mindful professional is a rare gem. An attentive professional translator is going to notice not only what is said but also how and why. You can’t afford to have a translator that misses an important fact, word or clarification.

Your professional translator needs to be there, present and aware of everything that is going on in the process of the communication. If you see that your translator is looking at her/his smartphone or adding items to their shopping list during the process, you better find someone else.

Cultural Awareness

Familiarity with the two cultures behind the translation languages is a sign that you have found the right translator.

Translating is much more about cultural awareness than many would like to admit. A professional knows how to communicate those small but significant nuances of language that make all the difference.

Being culturally aware is essential for avoiding misunderstandings. Consider that even in American English and British English a simple idiom as “put something on the table” means two quite different things.

A professional translator will protect you from saying the wrong thing and ruining your reputation. To find out if your translator has training in cultural awareness simply ask him or her about their experience working with the other culture.

High Listener Retention

Research has shown that we rely on our memory to understand what we’re listening to. That’s why listener retention is vital for a professional translator.

Simultaneous interpreters especially need to posses this trait to be able to remember and translate your words in the most accurate way possible. The lack of high listener retention in interpreters leads to the so called “filling in the blanks” – something that often causes costly mistakes during negotiation.

A simple way to test the listener retention of your prospective professional translator is to provide random information in a conversation and later ask them to recall it or rephrase your words.


A professional translator is a vessel of your message. Although he or she might use different words to communicate, there shouldn’t be any personal opinion, emotion or judgement.

When you know that your professional translator is objective you can trust him/her and feel comfortable and confident during international communication. A professional translator possesses language skills and knowledge in each area where he/she works but will not impose their opinion on any of the negotiating parties.

For example, if a foreign partner refuses to do business with you, is this going to be because of the conditions you offer or because the translator mentioned they would never sign such a contract?

When choosing a professional translator an easy way to discover if they’re objective is to ask them about their opinion on controversial issues. If they simply refuse with the excuse that their job is to translate not to judge, you have the right person.


An unprofessional translator can truly embarrass your business and you won’t even know it until it’s too late.

If you have had horrible experiences, invested hours in finding the right person, spent a ton of money and felt the discomfort of failed negotiations due to the poor services of a translator, the 5 traits of a professional translator above are the best way to make an informed choice next time.

Poor translation services can cost you much more than the translator fees – closed doors for doing business with international partners and lack of confidence in your own abilities to expand overseas.

We hope that you will use the tips above actively when you evaluate your next professional translator for your business event or meeting. As always, we welcome you to get a FREE price quote from our Team, and we look forward to hearing from you!